The Bailey Report on the sexualisation and commercialisation of children’s lives was published just a month and a half ago, and was clear in stating that the world in which our children are living and growing up is over-sexualised, and we must do something about this. Early sexualisation has crept up on us, and the real and very present danger to our young people is that the images and associated expectations of behaviour have entered the mainstream of our society with us barely noticing. Sexualised images are both pervasive and prevalent, and we have to do something now. Part of this is about us giving our children the awareness and tools to be savvy in their understanding of the images around them, and part of it is about us as a society saying – firmly and unequivocally – that we need to be much more responsible in what we allow our children to see.
The Report was largely welcomed – in part, one must assume, because Reg Bailey did not recommend legislation, but instead a better, stronger code of practice – but we need now to keep a very close eye on what happens as a result. Just to remind us, his key recommendations included:
- Providing parents with one single website to make it easier to complain about any programme, advert, product or service.
- Putting age restrictions on music videos to prevent children buying sexually explicit videos and guide broadcasters over when to show them.
- Covering up sexualised images on the front pages of magazines and newspapers so they are not in easy sight of children.
- Making it easier for parents to block adult and age-restricted material from the internet by giving every customer a choice at the point of purchase over whether they want adult content on their home internet, laptops or smart phones.
- Retailers offering age-appropriate clothes for children – the retail industry should sign up to the British Retail Consortium’s new guidelines which checks and challenges the design, buying, display and marketing of clothes, products and services for children.
- Restricting outdoor adverts containing sexualised imagery where large numbers of children are likely to see them, for example near schools, nurseries and playgrounds.
- Giving greater weight to the views of parents in the regulation of pre-watershed TV, rather than viewers as a whole, about what is suitable for children to watch.
- Banning the employment of children under 16 as brand ambassadors and in peer-to-peer marketing, and improving parents’ awareness of advertising and marketing techniques aimed at children.
Retailers, other businesses and regulators have been given 18 months to come up with plans for how they should meet these recommendations, which have all been accepted by the Government in principle. Progress to my mind would be being able to open a newspaper or magazine without being confronted by Rhianna flaunting her rear; I am keeping an eye out for change … so should we all.